How to Add Fountains, Ponds and Waterfalls to Your Backyard

Written by Ellen Goff, contributing writer
Updated February 28, 2013
backyard water feature
Water features can add value to your home while creating a relaxing environment. (Photo by Joe Hodgson)

Landscapers discuss home water features and the value they add to your property. Learn which features will work best for you.

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Video: Water Features and Fountains

The sound and movement of water is transforming, especially in the garden. Spiritually and emotionally, it adds life 
and energy to the environment. Little wonder that water features continue to capture homeowners’ imagination.

Home water features assume many forms, due in part to our mild winters. Justin Stabler, owner of highly rated Belaqua Waterfeatures in Plant City, Florida, builds and installs a wide range of waterfalls, ponds, and fountains for his clients in Tampa and throughout Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas and Hernando counties.

“We do quite a few ponds,” he says. “Two feet deep or less is called a goldfish 
or garden pond; 4 feet deep or more is called a koi keeper. Some have cascading waterfalls.”

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Stabler says the more formal shear fall is popular, but it lacks the splashing sound of a cascade.

To keep maintenance issues at a minimum, Stabler says he uses high quality materials and equipment. In his 12 years of experience, he’s repaired or replaced countless home water features that were built poorly, cheaply or incorrectly.

“Any landscaper can put in a water feature,” he says. “But in six months or a year, you may have green water or an algae problem. They cut corners in the beginning, then the customer calls us to fix it with the right materials and equipment and it ends up costing them more money in the end.”

The size of your outdoor space can dictate the style of a water feature. For a small garden wall or alcove, a wall-mounted spout, such as a lion’s head, a fish or decorative medallion, can be a stylish choice.

The recirculating stream of water flows from the spout into a small pool or urn to create an intimate retreat within a limited space.

Along the Atlantic Coast, space might be one of the only things in short supply. Clients of Island Environments on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, want to make the most of the diminutive yards that are typical of the island’s communities.

“Most people are looking for a fountain to go with their hardscaping in the front of the house or a small pond to go with their outdoor living area,“ says Jaime White, co-owner of the design and landscape firm that also serves the Lowcountry communities of Daufuskie Island, Bluffton, Okatie and Beaufort.

One of their small ponds can be 6 to 8 feet across, with a short waterfall.

“A lot of people don’t have enough room for a pool, and since it’s warm most of the year, they use the outdoor living space much more than people farther north,” he says.

White says maintaining 
the fountains of the island’s 
part-time residents is a bit more time consuming than looking 
after their ponds.

“We have to drain and clean them about once 
a month,” he says. “With ponds, we keep them algae-free, feed the fish and maintain the waterfall pumps. With the special filters 
we install, the water tends to stay in balance.”

Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer who’s passionate about plants, water quality and the environment. She also stays busy with her own landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, South Carolina.

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